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Guest tgilbert

Learning strategies for Chinese characters

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Guest tgilbert

I am wondering what strategies others have used or are using to learn and remember Chinese characters. I am a first year learner with about 100 characters (learning through distance education) and have fiddled with various different tactics. My preferred tactic right now is to learn the radicals (I found a great book on radicals) and then relate each new character back to its radicals, trying to see its meaning from the radicals. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it's just useless. What do you do?

Also, I am looking for some people who would be interested in exchanging emails in a mixture of Chinese and English to practice characters and grammar. Please contact me if you are interested.

TonyG

安统一

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JoH

Hi, well done on learning your first 100 characters! I find it helps too to look up the radicals and learn how the character is put together. As you say, it doesn't always work but sometimes its interesting enough to stick in your mind. When I started learning characters I wrote out each character five or six times and that really helped me remember the detail of them. I also recommend trying to write a little chinese every day, some kind of journal where you can just write random sentences to try out your new characters, as I find it much easier to remember them in context rather than as single characters. This could help you get used to using a chinese dictionary too. Right now, I'm using a flashcard thing that I've set up on my palm and its great for memorising characters.

The best advice I can give you is just to keep going. Soon you'll know 200, then 1000... I wouldn't worry too much if you forget a few of the characters you've 'learned' - just keep going. Once you get to the stage where you can read stuff you'll find the really useful characters will come up all the time and you'll remember them easily. I also found it gets much easier after a while anyway as the radicals become recognisable to you and characters get repeated in lots of different words.

Good luck,

Jo

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roddy

The key to learning vocabulary in any language is to learn it in meaningful groups - this could be 'food words', 'characters with the heart radical', 'word to describe people', etc - and to learn it in context - in a sentence, in a conversation, in a letter you write . . .

Roddy

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Guest tgilbert

Thanks for the encouragement Jo. I though I would share some of the tools I use with other people, as they are helping me a lot. Some of them are so good I actually parted with money to register them!

The most significant tool I have discovered is called Cquick Translator Dictionary. It is based on the CEDICT project and has about 24000 characters and phrases in it. It also has a useful flashcard capability and you can drop characters straight into study banks, with pinyin and English defitions, then review them in three stages. It's great.

Another really good program is NJ Star Communicator 2.3 which I use for writing Chinese characters. I consider it much better than, say, Chinese Star which I have also used, because it can be easily turned on and off with a mouse click. It also supports character phrases and lookup by radical. I believe this program was developed in Australia.

So, if anyone else is looking to use Chinese online, these are good tools to start with. Both have 30 day evaluation versions, so there's no risk.

Tony

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Guest mirela_violeta

I think the beginning is always harder. You musn't give up even if it seems very difficult. When I learned my first characters I spent about 5 Hhours learning them. At first I wrote them many times but now I only write them twice or three times. Now that I can recognise more than 3000 words I just analyse the character. It gets easiear with time to memorise the characters. The more you know the easier it gets. At first you have to practice every day and don't let a long period of time go by without writing something in chinese. After my first year I took a two months holiday and did't learn much during this time. When I went back to the university I was like a beginner.

I always learn the meaning of each sylable. In that way you can learn more words. They say it is also good to say the character out loud. I did't always do that and the result was that I could write better than I spoke. But I've improved my pronunciation a lot this year.

If you learned 100 characters, you did the hardest part which is starting to get used to the language.

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channamasala

I tested myself for the first time in months today and I still remember 107 out of 296 characters I learned before I gave up in frustration (my method was 1/4 prayer and 3/4 masochism). I'm starting up again this week, this time with someone to teach me. FINALLY. I find that learning a bunch of characters and then learning all the words you can make with them helps, as well as learning what new characters might be composed of them. Then you find all the words that include characters you know as well as ones you don't and you learn those too. The fact that you already know one character in the word makes the other(s) easier to remember.

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Guest lebefroh

I totally depend on my flash cards! I got so used to them that I find it really difficult to learn characters without them. I always carry the new words around with me and look at them when I'm waiting for a train etc. Only problem is - I really don't know where to put all my cards anymore, my desk is overflowing!

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Guest wazee17th
My preferred tactic right now is to learn the radicals (I found a great book on radicals) and then relate each new character back to its radicals, trying to see its meaning from the radicals. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it's just useless.

I have found this to be most useful, too, and I have been at it for over 10 years. Usually when the radical doesn't match the definition of the word, it's because the meaning of the word has been transformed over time. So ... I just make up a story about the word, using both the radical and the phonetic parts, and voila (!), it's stored in memory. I must warn you, however, I study traditional characters, and with so many more parts, it's easier to make up great tales.

Wazee

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A few years ago, a Chinese friend of mine castigated me because I was trying to learn to read and write characters by using computerized flash cards, computerized readers, input systems, etc. He said that the only way I'd learn them was to write them over and over and over again. And, although I live on my computer, he was and is right. That's how little kids learn them and the characters stay with them a lifetime. Also, another Chinese friend said that one of the games in school was to compete to see who could make the most compound word out of a radical or a one-element character. For me, that's a hard one. You not only have to know your zi, but you have to be able to relate them to each other even if they don't have similar meanings.

Sandra

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beijingbooty

flash cards, make your own with a chinese input system in windows or on the mac. Learn 5-6 new flash cards every day. Have memorizing sessions in the morning and in the evening. There is definitely no easy way to learn HANZI. It is goddammn hard !!. Set a goal of 3000 characters. When you recognize 3000 you can read 95% of common printed material. Should take 1.5-2 years of hard work to learn 3000 characters.

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JoH

Sandra, I agree that writing characters by hand is the best (only?) way to start learning. Otherwise its hard to remember all the small but crucial differences between them. But I found that once you know quite a few, computer flashcards can really help you to retain all the characters you have supposedly already 'learnt'. As well as making it easier to learn related words.

But if you want to learn to write chinese, as opposed to reading, there's no alternative. You just have to keep writing, regularly. I started using a computer to write my chinese homework, and found I made loads of mistakes which I didn't even notice, so I switched to writing by hand. Although at first I had to look up pretty much every word except 'wo'(!), it got better pretty rapidly with practice.

beijingbooty, have you taken the HSK yet? I took the intermediate level in May and am waiting for the results. I don't expect to do very well to be honest, but it will be interesting to see what level I come out at.

Jo

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channamasala

I have learned in the past two weeks that having a sadistic teacher on your back about learning 75 characters a week also works wonders. I am laerning so much more now that I am afraid.

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TSkillet

there's no substitution for sitting down and copying characters for pages and pages.

which is probably why my writing sucks.

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jwarriner

Tony,

One way I've found to get the repitiion and a little variety is to find the character you're working on in the dictionary and practice writing some or all of the words (combinations of characters) several times. This gives me concentrated practice with the character under study as well as a little introduction or review of the others.

cheers,

john

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Guest quinoa

i remember when i was a child faced with those huge pieces of paper filled with boxes to fill up with writing the same character over and over and over and over...

i hated it and the only word i remembered from that was wo3 我

repitition can help, but like a piano teacher i had once said, "practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect." what the h does that have to do with chinese? well, just mindless repetitions won't necessarily help. it might for short term memory and that's what i did in college. but now i try to focus on the character. for example, i try to write it in arm motions in the air or try to visualize the strokes with my eyes closed. knowing radicals helps too because you can group things more easily.

the most fun method is to make up picture stories. like rong2 yi4 容 易 i see as a mustached man and his donkey. i was so sad later to find the donkey beheaded and boiled for dinner in tang2

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Guest sjj17

Ive been using a flash card program for learning words and then writing out the characters lots of times for learning how to write the characters. I just have a small problem, the flashcard program I have only does the first three books in the series that I use and Im now on the fourth book. Does anyone know of a flashcard program, thats free, that I can download which I can make my own word list for (and is easy to use)?

Thanks

Sarah

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PollyWaffle

I made my own flashcard app using Macromedia Flash MX (the name is a coincidence). It takes a lot of effort to enter any new characters, meaning & pinyin, but I would be happy to give you a template of the .fla file & tell you how to go about making yer own. You could even improve it if you have any knowledge of flash technology.

polly

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Guest shunyadragon

:D I like the fun ways for the beginner to remember characters.

Men WANT yao4 western woman and they GET you3 the moon. This has some roots in Chinese history and culture. The emperors and other royalty and the wealthy often desired woman from the western regions of China and Central Asia for their wives and mistresses.

kong4 - 8 workers in a house is EMPTY.

It HURTS teng2 in the WINTER dong1 so you stay inside.

More to follow

Frank

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geek_frappa

daily drills with flashcards and asking a lot of stupid question in chinese really helps me... also, i have voices of friends' parents in my head telling me to practice, practice ...

practicing numbers so i don't have to use my fingers ...hehe

http://chinese.primezero.com/pzcdz/random.php

eric

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Guest Anonymous

I bought this book at Border's called "Kanji Pict-O-Graphix" by Michael Rowley. It illustrates each character by showing what the word is supposed to represent. For instance, if the word is "kill," he draws a picture of a vicious man wielding a knife in the shape of the word, since this is probably how the character came about in the first place. If you remember the pictures, you can easily correlate them with the words.

This book has been a great help. I highly recommend it to everyone.

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